Great Article on Motivation to Exercise! ~ Coaching 4 Health & Wellness

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Great Article on Motivation to Exercise!

How much exercise do I need?
Recent studies indicate that low-level exercise done most days of the week is enough to help keep us healthy. Strive for three types of exercise into your daily routine: aerobic, to get your heart rate up (20 minutes a day); strength-building, to build muscles (15 to 25 minutes twice a week); and stretching, to lengthen and loosen muscles and joints (5 to 10 minutes a day). Just a total of 30 minutes of exercise most days is enough to help you stay healthy! Always check with your physician before starting any exercise routine.

How do I get motivated?

Below are some strategies to get you moving.

Pick activities that are fun and appeal to you. There are plenty of activities out there — try swing dancing, bowling, yoga, ice skating or hiking. Combine exercise with other activities you enjoy. For instance, if you like the beach, what better way to enjoy its sights and sounds than to take a long walk?
Having a partner can help motivate you to exercise. Develop a buddy system either face-to-face or by phone or e-mail contact.
Keep an activity journal where you write down your fitness goals for the week. Then at the end of the week, see how close you came to meeting your goals. If you faltered at any time, figure out why you did. If, for instance, you said you were going to walk when you got home from work, maybe you found that preparing dinner or your daily commute got in the way. Once you know what prevented you from exercising, you can refine your goals to better suit your lifestyle. In addition to recording what you did, chart how your body felt after you exercised, what thoughts helped spur you, when you wanted to cut your session short, how it felt to accomplish your goals, etc. Your journal can be a powerful tool in helping you to get and stay motivated. Use it!
Make a no-excuses pact with yourself. Each one of us could probably come up with a whole list of excuses as to why we can't exercise. Try to nip this excuse reflex in the bud by confronting it in the beginning. Have a firm conversation with that little voice inside you that has prevented you from keeping promises to yourself in the past. Tell the voice that you're going to exercise for your health and because you enjoy it. When it tries to speak up, sing a song, change your thoughts or, better yet, start exercising to shut it up. The most common reasons given for not continuing an exercise program are lack of time and boredom. Think of ways to try to combat these excuses before you begin your program. For instance, to fit in exercise, try scheduling exercise in a daily appointment book. Seeing your exercise plan in black and white may help you to stay motivated.
Get into a positive mindset or as Nike says, "just do it!" Think good thoughts about the prospect of exercise, such as how refreshing it will feel to move about freely. Once you start exercising, focus on increased feelings of self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment and the increased energy levels that exercise brings. If you slack off for a few days or several weeks, wipe the slate clean and start again. Don't use messing up as an excuse for giving up.
Set realistic goals. Trying to exercise at an overly vigorous pace can set the stage for dropping out. If you haven't exercised in a while, keep your initial goals modest. For instance:* I will walk three times a week for 20 minutes. * I will stretch for five minutes three times a week. * I will exercise with 2 ½ pound-weights for 15 minutes twice a week. In a few weeks, after you achieve these goals, you can set new goals. For example, you can increase the length of time you spend exercising. Eventually, you should exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

How hard should my heart work?
In order to reap health benefits you should exercise at your target heart rate for at least 20 minutes three times a week. Your target heart rate is the rate at which your heart is working at 65-70% of its maximum capacity. To find out if you're working hard enough, stop exercising about halfway through your exercise routine and find a pulse point. (Your wrist or carotid artery in your neck work best.) Count the beats in a 30-second period and multiply by 2. This is your heart rate. Now, see how it fits into the calculator below.

Why is walking the perfect exercise?
It's safe, effective and almost anyone can do it. Besides warding off many diseases that result from inactivity, such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain forms of cancer, walking can also help relieve pain from headaches, fibromyalgia, lower back, joints, pulled muscles and other conditions. Why? Because walking (and other exercise) stimulates the release of mood-elevating endorphins, chemicals in the brain that minimize pain.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your walking program:

  • If you're not used to exercise, start off slowly. For the first week or two, set modest goals such as walking for 10 minutes or around the block.
  • Gradually work up to a more vigorous program. Eventually, you should walk (or do another form of exercise) nearly every day for at least 30 minutes.
  • When walking, always strive for a brisk pace. You should push yourself a bit, but there is no need to become breathless. A good test is to try walking and talking at the same time. If you can't, slow your pace a bit. If it seems too easy, pick it up. Music with a good beat played on a headset can help you keep a strong pace.
  • Find a walking buddy. Walking with a partner can take your mind off the distance traveled and, if you are walking early in the morning or after dark, it's much safer.
  • Try to stay in good walking form at all times: Hold your head high, tuck your pelvis under your torso, tighten your abdomen slightly and swing your arms at a 90-degree angle.

Why do I need to stretch?

Proper stretching can loosen muscles and joints, prevent muscle pulls and tears, increase mobility and improve circulation.

Here are some stretching guidelines:

  • Breathe normally when performing stretches.
  • Stretch for a few minutes after you wake up in the morning, after sitting for long periods of time and whenever you feel tense.
  • Stretches should be done slowly. Don't bounce.
  • Don't push the stretch too far. Stretching should not be painful.
  • In the beginning, hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds. Work up to 30 to 60 seconds for each exercise.
  • If you plan to stretch before a work-out, first do a 5 or 10 minute warm-up (such as jogging in place, walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bicycle.) Stretching muscles that aren't warmed up can result in tears and pulls.

This article is from vHealthHighway, Virtua's monthly e-mail newsletter on health and wellness issues. To subscribe click here.

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